According to the Wall Street Journal the New York audience was on its feet to applaud the opening of Anna Karenina with the Mariinsky Ballet. Alastair Macaulay in The New York Times was not impressed.
As bad ballets go, Alexei Ratmansky's two-act “Anna Karenina” is one of the best. It tells its potted version of Tolstoy's novel with a fair bit of narrative clarity; it manages many complex changes of scene deftly; its décor and costumes (by Mikael Melbye) are generally elegant; its extensive use of video projections (by Wendall Harrington) is unusual and effective; and most of its leading characters are immediately identifiable and distinct. But these virtues don't suffice. The ballet is a complete waste of everybody's time…
… Several of Mr. Ratmansky's ballets are pleasing, a few marvelous. It would be nice to argue that “Anna Karenina” is really a good ballet with flaws. Yet it's just not good enough for that…
… Unfortunately, at the climax of Act II it's replaced by a black-and-white video projection of a train, fast advancing straight at us. Anna lies down in front of it and wriggles a bit, whereupon there is a vast amount of white smoke. The end. When the curtain calls began on Monday, the smoke rendered the dancers nearly invisible…
Macaulay did appreciate the efforts of the interpreters:
Diana Vishneva was impeccable as Anna: gorgeous, compelling, simple, eloquent.
Afterwards, special (and remarkably heat-resistant) patrons revived themselves with chilled pea soup at the Mandarin a few blocks away, said Bloomberg. The dinner benefited the White Nights Foundation, the U.S. fund-raising arm of St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre. Quite a party: Tolstoy's classic was placed on every seat, vodka was passed in ice cubes and DJ Gabriel Prokofiev—the conductor's grandson—took to the turntables.
The night's leading man Yuri Smekalov, who replaced Konstantin Zverev as Vronsky, was in New York for the first time with his wife, Vlada. “But in few days I'm cheating on my husband and seeing ‘Catch Me If You Can' while he's performing,” said Ms. Smekalova. “I've seen way too many tragic Anna Kareninas in our lifetime.” – She just might find Alastair Macaulay sitting beside her.
Photos: top, Diana Vishneva as Anna Karenina – Ruby Washington/The New York Times; bottom, Kristina Kovalenko, Yuri Smerkalov and Diana Vishneva – Hoffmann/Patrick McMullan
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.